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Mil/Aero Connector Issues? Ask The Specialist

The Specialist, TTI’s secret weapon, sat down with us to chat about connector specification, mil/aero connector trends, and his passion for interconnects.

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TTI SpecialistQ: What drew you to the intrigue of the electronics industry? How did you begin your work with TTI?

A: As a child, I grew up working with my father in his radio repair shop, so electronics are second nature and a part of my roots. I began working with TTI when Paul Andrews took me under his wing shortly after my father passed.

Q: How important are connectors to any system design?

A: They are vital to the functionality and reliability of all systems. In reality, they either enable the functionality of the system or they limit the potential functionality. Connectors connect, and allow the flow of power, data, and signals through a system and in essence are its life’s blood. Their ability to operate effectively and efficiently to the design parameters is critical to the performance. Also, connectors must effectively perform their functions under a wide range of mechanical and environmental conditions that are unique to each system and the intended applications.

Q: What trends are you seeing in connector design and application, based on TTI’s customers’ questions and inquiries?

A: Smaller, lighter, higher densities, higher speeds, higher power, mixed power and signal, ruggedized, harsh environment, sealed, and more environmentally friendly.

Q: What are the top considerations for a design engineer in specifying a connector for a project? What SHOULD be the top considerations?

A: Engineering designs are always about finding a balance between performance, reliability, and applied cost. Above all, consideration must be given to the electrical requirements (power, data, signal, speed, signal integrity, shielding effectiveness) and the type of connectivity/terminations that will be necessary. Then focus needs to shift to the packaging/space/environmental conditions that the system will operate within. Finally, consideration is given to cost, applied cost, reliability, availability, and alternate sourcing.

Q: What are your tips for design engineers in choosing between manufacturers as the source for their connectors?

A: They should stick to the top-tier manufacturers that appear on the TTI line card. Ok, that’s a shameless plug. (Grins.) There are fundamental requirements that are a given for any consideration – quality, reliability, reputation, technology, and delivery/customer service. Pick the suppliers who can meet your design needs and are perceived well in all of these areas. Competitive pricing and efficient total applied cost as well as availability are important factors and should be considered during both the design phase of the product and the sourcing phase of the decision.

Q: We’re focusing on mil/aero topics this week. What is unique in specifying connectors for mil/aero applications?

A: Generally, mil/aero connectors offer higher reliability and the capability to operate in harsher environments and for longer periods of time than commercial connectors. They are often bought to meet a military specification that in essence “pre-approves” the various manufacturers’ products to perform to the requirements outlined in the specification, which allows easier selection of these products for design applications.

Q: What are the most important trends right now in mil/aero applications? What are design engineers in that space looking for, and how are manufacturers responding to those needs?

A: Similar macro trends I mentioned earlier, namely smaller and higher-density packaging, lighter weight, ability to withstand higher vibration, faster speeds, increased shielding effectiveness, and greater resistance to harsh environments and fluids. We are seeing more mixed power and signal arrangements, mixed media (both copper and fiber), and much higher density. On the cost side of the equation, we are also seeing a push toward COTS (commercial off the shelf) products to be used where possible.

Q: What’s next for the Specialist? Where will your next assignment take you?

A: The possibilities are endless! Once I’ve returned from the new proximity warehouse in Mexico, I’ll be back at TTI headquarters helping customers find solutions to their challenges through my Video BLOG. Be sure to check it out.

Q: If you were a connector, what type of connector would you be and why?

A: That’s easy; I’d be a circular connector – so that I could be included in the broadest line card of circular connectors in the world…at TTI (wink).

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Patricia Staino
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